EU ministers 'losing patience' with Greece: Eurogroup
ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem (L) stands next to Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos and Italian counterpart Fabrizio Saccomanni (R) during an Eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels November 14, 2013. REUTERS photoEurozone finance ministers are "losing patience" with Greece, Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem told a Greek daily as the crisis-hit country prepared to unveil its next budget on Thursday.
"Many finance ministers of the eurozone are starting to lose patience," Dijsselbloem told Ta Nea daily after a lecture in The Hague on Wednesday.
A statement issued by the International Monetary Fund early on Thursday said that auditors from the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission had concluded their latest visit to Greece to review progress on the country's economic programme.
Such audits determine whether or not Greece receives the next slice of rescue funding.
The IMF said that the discussions had been "productive" on the policies "that could serve as a basis" for completion of the review.
It said that "good progress has been made, but a few issues remain outstanding. Talks would continue from the headquarters of the three creditor bodies and the auditors would return to Athens "early in December," the statement said. On Thursday, Athens will unveil its 2014 budget, a blueprint expected to forecast slim growth in the Greek economy after six straight years of recession.
But the budget is likely to require revision soon as Greek officials have yet to agree with the country's creditors on how to close a looming fiscal gap next year.
The troika predicts the 2014 fiscal gap will exceed 1.5 billion euros ($2.0 billion), while the Greek government estimates the sum to be slightly more than 500 million euros.
Discussions are also stumbling on the issue of a new property tax, possible new pension cuts as well as layoffs in the state sector, and the slow pace of privatisation.
The EU-IMF fiscal audit, necessary to unblock a one-billion-euro ($1.4 billion) instalment of financial aid, is now expected to drag on until Christmas.
"Greece still has plenty of work to do," Dijsselbloem told Ta Nea, noting that the EU-IMF talks in Athens were focusing on Greece's "progress -- or rather, lack of progress -- on its commitments."